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Bailey and Green: A duel for the ages

CINCINNATI – The Broncos aren’t scheduled to meet the Bengals again until 2015. Champ Bailey’s contract expires in 2014. So unless they finish in the same place in their divisions this year or next year or meet in the playoffs, Sunday might have been the only time that Champ Bailey and A.J. Green dueled.

Bailey spent the day shadowing Green, and the results — as one would expect — were mixed for both sides.

Green had a 37-yard reception up the right sideline at Bailey’s expense. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly run, expertly tossed fade route in the end zone. But Bailey intercepted a pass headed for Green that set up the Broncos’ game-clinching touchdown.

The day was about average for Green: 99 yards on seven receptions for a touchdown; his per-game averages this year are 6.4 catches, 91.9 yards and a touchdown. But he didn’t make any plays to break the Broncos’ back; the longest gain of the day belonged not to Green, but tight end Jermaine Gresham.

So who won? Call it a draw.

“He’s special. I don’t know what his ceiling is. We’ll see. I don’t know how much better he can get, but I’m going to be one of the guys watching,” said Bailey.

“Anything he did today didn’t surprise me. He’s just one of the best, you know? You’ve got to give him credit. I mean, I’m not going to say I wasn’t ticked off at myself, but that’s just the way it is. The funny thing is, in this league you’re going to have some tough match-ups. It’s just all about how you respond. I felt like as a team, we did.”

Bailey had not allowed a touchdown since last season, but was beaten on one of the toughest situations against a receiver like Green — inside the red zone, with the receiver lined up inside or on the numbers painted every 10 yards on the field.

“On that route, there’s a two-way going. You get a receiver lined up on the numbers, you don’t know which way he’s going to go, so you’ve just got to kind of play it honest,” Bailey said.

“The toughest route is the fade, but he doesn’t make it tough; he makes it look easy. That’s one thing that’s special about him: his ball skills. If you’re not right there to knock it down, he’s going to catch it.”

But if an errant pass goes Bailey’s direction, he’s going to catch it, too — which is what happened when the Broncos capitalize after the Bengals held and false-started their way into a third-and-25. The Broncos knew Andy Dalton needed time to wait for his targets to get upfield, so they attacked, and pressure forced a short lob that died before getting to Green. Bailey read it perfectly and picked it off.

“The quarterback was a little rattled,” Bailey said.

Bailey is headed for the Hall of Fame. With good health and good fortune, Green has the talent to get there, too.

“The fact that he’s 6-4 and can run a 4.3. That combination doesn’t come around that often,” Bailey said.

Of course, neither does a cornerback like Bailey, which is why it’s a shame that their dance was a one-night engagement.

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